IVF in Qatar: Choices and Challenges
When Faye Caranto was first considering in vitro fertilisation (IVF) options in Qatar, the obvious choice was Hamad. However, at the time, Hamad Women’s Hospital prioritised Qatari nationals for IVF. When Hamad reopened their IVF services to expats in 2015, Faye was ready to start her IVF journey. After two rounds of treatments, Faye gave birth to a baby girl in 2017.
Fertility treatment, in general, is highly individual and should be tailored to a woman’s specific needs. The tests, medication and procedures involved in IVF will vary depending on the fertility issues faced by the couple. There is no official body overseeing IVF and fertility treatment in Qatar, and each clinic has their own standards and procedures. If you are considering IVF, it is essential to ask questions, gather information, get professional advice and explore all options.
First, check whether the clinic or hospital you are considering will offer you IVF treatment. Eligibility criteria vary from clinic to clinic and do change.
In 2012, Amanda*, a British expat, received IVF treatment at Hamad. Following a referral from a private clinic, she waited less than a month for her initial appointment. Her first round of IVF at the Women’s Hospital was a success. She praised the world-class facilities, the fantastic patient care, and the professionalism and expertise of the doctors. The cost of the treatment in 2012 was around QR 5,000, a fraction of the cost of IVF in her home country. The estimated costs for Hamad have since increased but it is still among the most competitively priced options for IVF in Qatar.
The majority of private clinics do not have strict eligibility criteria and see all women of reproductive age. Hamad remains the exception where, at the time of writing, there are strict IVF criteria for non-Qatari women—they should not have any children already, they must be less than 40 years old for the duration of the treatment, and they must have a BMI of 30 or less.
Selecting a clinic
Beyond a clinic or hospital’s eligibility requirements, you may have some of your own preferences. Consider whether you want any specific testing done before or during the process. Does it matter whether your partner is allowed to attend appointments with you? If you’ve already started the process in your home country, does your fertility doctor have a preference for any doctors or clinics in Qatar?
IVF treatment requires regular appointments and, at some stages, daily medication and clinical testing. It was proximity to home, as well as the expertise and bedside manner of Dr Osama Hassan Salha that led Sara*, a 28-year-old expat of Indian heritage, to choose Elite Medical Center. The facilities are excellent, she says, as is the support offered by professional staff. She even receives daily updates from her embryologist. Furthermore, her husband has been able to attend appointments for the majority of the procedures, which she says is essential.
Erin*, a Canadian expat who had started IVF before moving to Doha, completed her treatment in Canada as she wanted to remain under the care of her specialist; however, she saw Professor Badreldeen at Feto Maternal Medical Centre for her aftercare. He liaised with her Canadian doctor and followed her care plan meticulously in line with Canadian regulations. Feto Maternal also offers a range of IVF services at their infertility clinic including pre-implantation genetic screening, diagnostic testing and sex selection.
Sidra Medicine recently opened a Reproductive Medicine Unit offering IVF as well as preconception testing, surgical management of related conditions, antenatal, postnatal and paediatric care following birth. The new department is open for consultations and expects to offer full services by Spring 2019. Men are allowed to accompany their partners to appointments.
If having your husband at your appointments is essential to you, it is worth noting that men are not allowed to accompany their partners to appointments or even enter Hamad Women’s Hospital.
Advice and support
All the women we interviewed emphasised the importance of finding support. They were frank about the emotional and physical demands of the process, which could be particularly challenging for expats in Doha without family and close friends nearby. Many found new friends at the IVF clinics to share their experiences and support each other on their journeys. There are, of course, also numerous Facebook groups to support those facing fertility issues. For Amanda, the Fertility Talk Support Facebook group was especially helpful.
For couples who are still deciding about IVF, Feto Maternal provides in-depth, informative articles on fertility on their website (dohafmc.com/news/fertility-news).
Faye’s advice is to be patient and persistent. Don’t hesitate to go to the clinic in person and insist on speaking directly with the medical staff. Make sure you have all your paperwork together, including documents from your home country or local physician stating that IVF is the next suggested treatment.
She encourages women seeking IVF to stay positive despite all the challenges they will face, and take care of themselves by exercising regularly, eating healthy and talking to friends to help them deal with the stress of the process.
*Names have been changed for privacy